1. Joe imagines a tiger coming to call for him; he imagines walking in the Silver Forest with a girl he does not know; he imagines becoming animalslarks, bats, weasels, snakes; and he imagines Joff and Stanny in the woods. David Almond describes these dreams in great detail. Read some of these descriptions aloud to get a sense of how very real they are for Joeand for you, the reader. Discuss the dreams. Which of them are more like prophecies? Why?2. Nanty Solo tells Joe:"Words'. . . That's no matter. Words is babble and noise and nonsense, Joe Maloney. But you know that, don't you'. . . What is words beside a lark song, eh?"(p. 84) -InSecret Heart,words often carry angry and hurtful messages. Talk about the times in the novel when people use words as weapons. -Joe has a stuttera stammerthat stops him from using words comfortably. Yet Joe manages to communicate well with those who care about him. How is he able to? How important do you think words are to communication?3. Joe has never known his father, but there is an odd assortment of men he meets who could serve as male role models, including Joff, Bleak Winters, and Hackenschmidt. What do they each teach Joe aboud being a man? What do you think it means to "be a man"?4.It had gone on so long. Psychiatrists had pried into his brain. Social workers had pried into his home. Teachers had been gentle with him, stern with him, furious with him. . . . Nothing had tamed him. The choice was easy. The eerie wasteland or the gates and walls of school? . . . He chose the wilderness, the larks, the rats and rabbits and stoats. And he accepted the loneliness that went with this choice(p. 52). Do you know anyone like Joe? Someone who, for his or her own reasons, chooses to be on the outside? What do you think the reasons are? Is there any part of you that shares that feeling?5. Talk about the people in the circusLovely Wilfred, Charley Caruso, Nanty Solo, and Hackenschmidt. Like Joe, they live outside of the mainstream. What reasons do you think each one had for making that choice? What do they get from being a part of the circus? What do they get from each other? And what do they give to the people who come to see them?6. Compare the places in the novel: Helmuth, the wasteland, the Silver Forest, the Black Bone Crags, and the caravans and tent of the circus. Talk about how they look and the colors, smells, and sounds the author uses to describe them. Draw parallels between the places and Joe's experience in the storywhat does each place symbolize? Where does Joe most feel at home?7. Corinna is Joe's guide to the world of the circus, and she teaches him to fly. She is calm and collected, and she understands many things that make her wise beyond her age. But when she and Joe find the panther killed, she wants revenge. Does her anger surprise you? What actions does she take that seem out of character? Why do you think she reacts this way, and how does Joe respond? How would you respond?8. When Joe puts on the skin of the tiger and prepares for his journey to bring the tiger back to the forest, Hackenschmidt advises him,"Justbreathe. Just be yourself, Joe Maloney" (p. 149). At this point, Joe is beginning to understand who he is. We have gotten to know Joe through the perceptions, descriptions, and actions of the other characters in the novel. Think about what each character has told us about Joe. Be sure to include Mum, Stanny, Joff, Corinna, Nanty, Hackenschmidt, Bleak Winters and his class, and Cody's Crew. If someone were writing the story of your life, what characters, major and minor, would need to weigh in to give a complete picture of you?9. What does Joe think of himself? How does that self-evaluation change over the course ofSecret Heart? DidAlmond, David is the author of 'Secret Heart' with ISBN 9780440418276 and ISBN 0440418275.